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What is the Highest Flying Bird?

The highest recorded flying bird was a vulture called Ruppell's griffon. In 1975, one of these birds — with its 10-foot (3-meter) wingspan — was recorded flying at an altitude of 37,900 feet (11,552 meters). Unfortunately, this is known because the bird was sucked into a jet engine — there was some damage to the plane, but it landed safely.

More high-flying facts:

  • Mount Everest is 29,028 feet (8,848 meters) high, about a mile and half lower than the Ruppell's griffon flew.

  • Other birds that fly routinely fly higher than Mount Everest include Bar-headed geese, whooper swans and bar-tailed godwits.

  • The highest flying bird in North America was recorded in 1963 when a mallard hit an airplane flying at 21,000 feet (6,401 meters) over Nevada.

  • The highest living land dweller, a jumping spider, also is up there at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters) on Mount Makalu.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest flying bird ever recorded?

The Rüppell's griffon vulture holds the record for the highest flying bird, soaring at an incredible altitude of 37,000 feet, as confirmed by a collision with a commercial aircraft at this height. This bird's physiological adaptations enable it to survive in low-oxygen environments, making such feats possible.

How do birds like the Rüppell's griffon vulture survive at high altitudes?

Birds that fly at high altitudes have special adaptations such as efficient respiratory systems and hemoglobin with a higher affinity for oxygen. This allows them to extract oxygen effectively even in thin air. Additionally, their bodies can withstand the cold temperatures and lower air pressure found at such heights.

Are there any other birds known for flying at extreme altitudes?

Yes, other notable high-flyers include the bar-headed goose, which migrates over the Himalayas at altitudes up to 29,000 feet, and the Andean condor, known to soar at heights of around 21,300 feet. These birds are adapted to their specific migratory and hunting needs, which involve high-altitude flight.

What enables the bar-headed goose to fly over the Himalayas?

The bar-headed goose has several physiological adaptations, such as a higher capillary density and more efficient oxygen uptake in their muscles, which allow it to fly over the Himalayas. According to studies, these geese can also hyperventilate without getting dizzy, helping them to cope with the low oxygen levels at high altitudes.

How does high-altitude flight benefit these birds?

High-altitude flight offers birds several advantages, including avoidance of predators, energy efficiency during long migratory routes, and the ability to exploit updrafts to conserve energy. It also allows them to take the most direct migratory paths over geographical barriers like mountains, which is crucial for their survival.

Can all birds fly at high altitudes?

No, not all birds are capable of high-altitude flight. Most bird species fly below 500 feet, and only a select few have the necessary adaptations to fly at extreme altitudes. High-altitude flight requires specialized physiological traits, which are typically found only in species that have evolved to meet specific ecological challenges.

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